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Customer application 31 March 2021
Railway Systems for the Most Demanding Conditions

Once the railroad cranes and slag pot carriers leave Kirow’s production facility in Leipzig, Germany, they often have to endure at least 20 years of service in the most demanding conditions. Outdoor temperatures between −20 and +40 °C, hot slag material at temperatures of up to 1,200 °C, severe shocks and increased electrical voltages are just some of the demands placed on the technology and electronics. WAGO’s spring pressure connection technology and I/O controllers have also had to prove they can handle such environments.
Kirow is the world market leader for railway cranes, and its heavy-duty model, the Multi Tasker, can be found in the depots of many railway companies. It is used wherever damaged vehicles will be recovered from the rail network and loads of up to 200 t have to be moved. The Tracklayer, a specialty lifting and transportation machine that accompanies the Multi Tasker, is used for laying very long and heavy track and replacing switch points. Due to the severe wear that results from use with high-speed trains, switches have to be replaced regularly. The individual parts of a rail’s switch point used to be transported to the site, where they were assembled and fitted to the tracks. The heavy switch segments, which weigh up to 18 t, are now supplied by the manufacturer as completely pre-assembled components and then brought to the replacement site. As the switches are too bulky for normal rail transport, since they can be up to 4.4 m wide, they are loaded onto Kirow’s special switch transport cars, tilted 60 degrees, fastened securely and then transported to the site – often over long distances.


  • Rugged Electronics for Harsh Environments

  • Increasing Demands on the Technology

  • Compatibility and Long-Term Availability

Rugged Electronics for Harsh Environments

Kirow’s railway cranes and slag pot carriers are operated by sophisticated control technology. A host of sensors monitor the current operating status and numerous actuators to ensure reliable control. The signals are routed through an I/O system that supports several essential functions, such as the use of inductive sensors to monitor the position of additional stabilizing supports for cranes. If the supports are located at the required distance, then a digital output module in the system activates a control light. Other sensors check whether the tilt compensation mechanism is correctly locked during transport and unlocked during operation.

“We were looking for an I/O system that had already been tried and tested in harsh railway environments. Compared to other manufacturers, WAGO’s reliable spring pressure connection technology and robust CANopen technology stood out,” reports Arnfried Wagner, the engineer responsible for control technology at Kirow. Kirow uses the WAGO-I/O-SYSTEM 750. The Minden-based manufacturer was able to certify the durability of its technology for the special requirements of the railway industry per EN 50155 (railway standard) and EN 50121/3/2 (EMC performance). WAGO’s spring pressure connection technology and electronics have been tested for resistance to impacts and shock; they also have the certifications that verify resistance to extreme weather, interference and vibrations, as well as dielectric strength.

According to Wagner, other benefits of WAGO technology include a modular design and a compact footprint. The space-saving I/O nodes can be positioned wherever sensors and actuators are needed and do not require expensive cabling to a central controller. Due to the short distances involved, Kirow uses cables with small cross-sections that are less susceptible to electromagnetic interference. Thanks to the large number of analog and digital inputs and outputs available, the WAGO-I/O-SYSTEM is the perfect complement to Kirow’s own control technology. This is why additional functions, such as the movement of the support arms, will also be controlled by the WAGO-I/O-SYSTEM’s output modules in the future.

» We have been using WAGO technology for five years and are very pleased with it. We have never had any failures despite the extreme environment. «

Arnfried Wagner

Engineer responsible for control technology at Kirow

Increasing Demands on Technology

“We have been using WAGO technology for five years and are very pleased with it. We have never had any failures despite the extreme environment. This technology can be flexibly applied to a wide range of requirements and has a good price–performance ratio,” says Wagner. As the engineer responsible for the control technology at Kirow, he gives WAGO high marks. “We initially underestimated the problems with condensation in areas with extreme temperature fluctuations. Together with WAGO, we looked for a solution and quickly found one by applying a special protective coating to the electronics. Since then, we have not had any more problems with humidity, and our customers are also very pleased with the technology’s reliability,” says Arnfried Wagner.

At Kirow, particular importance is placed on standard interfaces, like the fieldbus coupler for CANopen; usability is also stressed. Despite continuous operation in harsh environments, WAGO’s spring pressure connection technology has ensured absolute reliability for both modules and controllers. “The extended temperature range is becoming more and more important to us. For example, we have tenders from Lithuania and China in which the technology has to function flawlessly at −40 °C. WAGO’s new 750 XTR Series offers the right solution here,” reports Arnfried Wagner. The new WAGO-I/O-SYSTEM 750 XTR features an extended temperature range from −40 °C to +70 °C. This system also offers isolation up to 5 kV and vibration resistance up to 5g of acceleration.

At Kirow, experience has shown that just having proven technology is no longer enough. Compliance with standards for climatic conditions, EMC protection and proof of safety must also be certified. With its own certified testing laboratory, WAGO is able to reliably verify compliance with all standards.

Compatibility and Long-Term Availability

The customers of the railway technology manufacturer expect a product lifespan of at least 20 years. Quality of service and spare parts availability are also important. However, the innovation cycle of software and electronic components does not align with these requirements. The engineering responsible for control technology at Kirow has had several disappointing experiences with electronics suppliers: “We were repeatedly surprised by the discontinuation of important parts. WAGO’s product philosophy is much better in this regard, as new components are always backward compatible with previous versions. This continuity is also very important to us.”


  • The WAGO-I/O-SYSTEM 750 meets the special requirements of the railway sector.

  • The compact WAGO-I/O-SYSTEM reduces cabling to the central controller.

  • Backward compatibility of new controllers ensures continuity for a product’s life cycle.

Text: Marco Schrader, WAGO

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